New book ‘SURFER Magazine 1960-2020’ captures the essence of publishing over six decades


The Icelandic snapshot of Chris Burkard made famous in the pages of SURFER.

Like pretty much every other surfer over, say, 20, I vividly remember the very first issue of SURFER magazine that I saw. It was the summer of 1967, and at age 11, recently transplanted with his family to Hawaii, taking up surfing was a natural thing to do; just what you’ve done, like wearing rubber flip flops to school or learning to speak pidgin.

All that changed in a few moments, when I visited the room of an older neighboring child, I saw on his desk a magazine titled SURFER. Cover image: Jock Sutherland, squatting with a Pipeline curl. Nice shot. But even more intriguing are the accompanying covers: “Huntington US Championships”, “Mickey Dora on Malibu”, “The Death of Killer Dana”, “Japan Surfatorium”, “New USSA Champ”.

I had absolutely no idea what any of this meant or referred to. But as I picked up the magazine and flipped through its pages, I immediately knew I wanted to know where Huntington was, who Mickey Dora was, how Killer Dana was killed, and what a “surfatorium” was. Here in my hands, presented in editorial form, with columns, stories, photos and advertisements, was a window into an entirely new world, and the concept, challenging my fifth-grade sensibilities, that surfing was only not just something you did, it was was something you became – you didn’t just surf, you were a surfer.

From Mick to Mason, Bruce to Nat, Dustin to Cliff and beyond, it’s quite a story. Pictures: SURFER Magazine 1960-2020

It’s no wonder, then, that the only endorsement I sought growing up was from SURFER magazine; to be the surfer that SURFER told me to be. Even less surprising than having embraced this credo passionately from that first glimpse in 1967, I ended up working for the magazine, climbing the masthead from contributor to editor over the course of a decade. chief position. A position from which I would publish two books, writing and editing The perfect day: 40 years of SURFER Magazine and SURFER Magazine 50both titles examining SURFERS great influence and enduring relevance. Saying all of this to establish (as well as admit) that I am, by nature, unreasonably protective of SURFERS legacy, and instinctively skeptical of others’ efforts to provide additional perspective.

However, all skepticism evaporated upon receipt of a copy of the impressive, SURFER Magazine 1960-2020, recently published by Rizzoli Books. It is not only a valuable complement to the two aforementioned titles, but also an essential volume in its own right and a “must-have” for anyone even remotely interested in surfing and surfing culture. surf.

What is Ellis, SURFERS photo editor from 2003 to 2020, created a remarkable visual timeline of SURFERS six-decade publication, presenting the entire colorful and compelling contest almost entirely without a printed word, but instead with meticulously collated pages and images from the magazine. Seamlessly transitioning between eras, this dynamic, fast-paced format belies the incredible amount of research required of Ellis to assemble, for the very first time, the full picture of SURFERS the story.

“The idea was to celebrate the look of each decade,” says Ellis, who first considered the project long before the Rizzoli deal merged. “And hopefully recreating the excitement of what it was like to open an issue of the magazine for the first time back when you were cutting out pictures and putting them on the wall of your room.”

An ambitious goal, given the amount of content involved, the main challenge of this type of compilation necessarily being what to include and what to omit.

New book 'SURFER Magazine 1960-2020' captures the essence of publishing over six decades

History lived in these pages. Pictures: SURFER Magazine 1960-2020

“I felt so much anxiety about it,” Ellis recalled. “A lot of sleepless nights, because it was inevitable that I would end up leaving out things that someone thought I shouldn’t. On the other hand, I didn’t just want to put out all the obvious hero shots, the ones everyone remembers, but also include some of the darker, more nuanced imagery that contributed just as much to the magazine’s impact.

Despite the comprehensive visual representation, the theme of impact runs through the entire volume, not only with a foreword by Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Finnegan and accompanying essays (and short ones) by all the living SURFER editors, but the way, by delineating each decade with a comprehensive collection of his covers, Ellis elegantly makes a powerful statement about the current state of surf media.

“I think people forget how important the magazine was in their lives,” Ellis says. “In this he offered a linear timeline of our history and culture. Today’s media tends to play it all up either as a series of highlights or to present various topics as in a collage, unrelated to what happened in the previous month(s). My plan of action was to provide those who did not have a full collection of SURFER a look at this lost linear timeline of surfing and surf culture, describing it as SURFER has done it surprisingly well, decade after decade. I hope I understood correctly.

Indeed, he did.

Editor’s note: SURF Magazine 1960 – 2022 can be ordered from Amazon, Rizzoli or directly from (and signed by) Grant himself, at


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